There was an understandable amount of fanfare around the release of 'The Gathering Storm'. Jordan's death in 2007 left many fans wondering if they would ever see the end of the beloved series. The announcement that Brandon Sanderson would finish the series was a relief - though I had never heard of him - and anticipation began building. 'Knife of Dreams' had began the process of moving the many and varied story-lines back towards the single arc of the march towards the Last Battle. 'The Gathering Storm' reaps the benefit of that with two killer story arcs.
Rand has been trapped in his flesh case of emotion ever since his capture and beating at the hands of Elaida's Aes Sedai. He has been moving ever more towards hardness and retreats further from any hope of a life after confronting the Dark One. As he moves into Arad Doman to head off the Seanchan and attempt to repair the kingdom that has arguably suffered the most at the hands of the Forsaken, he is about to be pushed beyond the brink. Cadsuane, Nynaeve, and Min can do little but watch, and Aviendha is dealing with her own problems and avoids Rand, which probably doesn't help his situation. He has an interesting meeting with Tuon, now at the helm of the Seanchan Empire.
Egwene, however, is one hundred percent winning the game all the time. Her imprisonment in the White Tower continues to work to her advantage. Siuan, Gareth Bryne, and, shockingly, Gawyn along with some back-up singer Aes Sedai POVs lead up to a satisfying climax to the divided White Tower story-line. Just imagine me gushing for several paragraphs. I loved every minute of it.
Plain and simple - this is the best overall book since 'The Shadow Rising', a bit ironic seeing as how the breakout star of that book - Mat Cauthon - is the sole liability of 'The Gathering Storm'.
On my first read of the book when it came out I didn't really notice the discrepancy in Mat's character - he had never been a favorite, and there is too much awesome going on elsewhere in these pages - but on this reread with everything being experienced so close together the difference was glaring.
Sanderson does an excellent job of continuing the story that Jordan left behind, but he's not funny and his attempt to conjure Mat's 'wool-headed' conception of women came off as misogyny rather than charmingly naive. That opening diatribe at the opening appearance of his character was almost painful.
But, I never did mind about the little things.
Wrapping up, there is very little Perrin here - he examines some wagons - and Faile takes care of some business. Thom is with Mat and holding on that letter of his....
The Wheel of Time
Next: 'Towers of Midnight'
Previous: 'New Spring'
Here's another fantasy I wanted to love, but it fell flat.
'The Bloodprint' launches the reader into a world torn apart by conflicting ideologies. The forces of The Talisman, led by a mysterious entity known as the One-Eyed Preacher, conquer more lands every year, subjugating women and selling them as slaves, and burning libraries and banning scholarly pursuits. Few seem able to stand against them, but an order of women known as the Companions of Hira may have a chance against Talisman forces.
We meet Arian and her friend/apprentice Sinnia in the opening pages breaking up a slave chain. Arian is First Oralist of the Companions and a master of the Claim. The Claim is magic derived from memorized lines passed down from a sacred text unseen for centuries. Its words offer comfort and power to their wielders. Arian has lost her family to the Talisman and fears she can trust only a few, even other members of her order are suspect. Thankfully it seems she is super bad-ass and powerful and can do just about anything she wants, until she can't. Khan shows us Arian at the height of her strength and early on has her accomplish a nigh-impossible task and collects an artifact of Extreme Importance. We know this because we are told so.
I wanted to like this more, but on the whole I couldn't get into the deeper mysteries or lore of this fantasy universe because Khan started us at the top. She may have wanted to skip the cliché of the humble beginning and get to the good stuff, but Arian ends up becoming more of a Mary-Sue than a strong woman of fantasy. We see little peaks of her training, but its too little, too late.
Supporting characters and subplots, Sinnia especially, seemed underdeveloped and I would have liked to have spent more time with her as something other than Second Prettiest Girl in the Room.
I don't know, Khan is on to something here, and I like the trend in genre fiction this diverse, female-centric title represents, but the execution fell short of where it needed to be.
Next: 'The Black Khan'
I could have saved myself a lot of time if I had known from the start of this that 'The Motion of Puppets' was a retelling of Orpheus and Eurydice.
This was a bizarre novel, Kay falls in love with a puppet standing in a closed-up Antique Doll store she passes on her way home every day. One night, returning home by herself she sees a light in the window and investigates. She awakens in the body of a puppet and must abide by the strange rules and customs of the other puppets she meets there.
Meanwhile, Kay's husband is frantic to find out where she's been. His work, a translation of a biography of a pioneering photographer, is put aside and in the face of increase suspician from the police and estrangement from old friends and colleagues, he tries to find her.
There were interesting character studies here, and a decidedly creepy aesthetic with the use of the puppets and the mythological elements. I hated the ending, however. It cut short the momentum of the story and left little room for resolution. I can handle a 'bad' or a 'sad' ending, but I need more than what Donohue was offering.
I'm sorry things got so hectic for me these last two months, I would have liked to follow through with Halloween Bingo, but I'm glad it inspired me to read a few more books like this one.
'Melmoth' by Sarah Perry is self-consciously layered with atmosphere, following Helen, a grey, self-punishing woman getting by making translations of technical manuals. and living in Prague, that most atmospheric of cities. Her brooding is interrupted by a man named Karel. He is clearly spooked and, after some mutterings and a brief conference in a bar, leaves Helen with a manuscript describing encounters with an obscure folk figure known as Melmoth the Witness. She watches the worst sins of mankind and, occasionally, asks lonely sinners to join her and they are never seen again.
Helen is concerned for Karel. He is the only one who has, with his wife Thea, penetrated Helen's gloom. Thea's recent debilitating stroke has put a strain on the marriage, but cannot account for his strange behavior. Helen begins reading the manuscript, and later learns of Karel's disappearance.
The novel follows Helen's reading of the manuscript, what led to its creation, and the responses it provokes from herself, Karel, and Thea. Traces of Melmoth are found around the greatest horrors mankind has produced in the 20th century, and in more personal, individual failings of the human spirit.
Perry has created something powerful here. I love reworkings of myth and subversion of what's expected. This is a novel about guilt, human tragedy, and the best and worst that we are capable of. This was the perfect read for the fall season.